Well, darlinks, here it is. I thought you should be the first to see it. Remember when I told you I was going to write a cheese guide? I pictured a tiny little moleskine without any photos. But look…
Or maybe this is my favorite image, that frosty martini. I can still hear Carrie Purcell shaking it in the background, on a hot day last summer when she came to town to style the photo shoot. That day, she made something like thirteen recipes and styled them without breaking a sweat.
But I digress. The book is here. And I am in my pajamas, staring at a box of joy.
In stores May 7, 2013.
For the story behind this book, click here.
I love a cheese pairing that makes me fall out of my chair. This happens more often than you might think. In this story, I am falling out of my chair because I can’t believe I am spooning guava paste out of a plastic Goya tub and slathering it on cheddar. Not once, but many times. Guava paste has changed the way I think about cheddar forever. And for this I have to thank my grrl Wendy, who blew threw town on a road trip when I was cutting into a sample of Governor’s Cheddar from Vermont Farmstead Cheese Co.
“We need to get some guava paste for that,” she said, and I fell out of my chair. We got into her car and we drove straight to Cousin’s in the Puerto Rican neighborhood not far from my house. Along the way, Wendy told me how she had grown up eating cheddar and guava paste on Ritz crackers at her friend Lauren’s house after school. This was in Nyak, in the ’70s. I wish I had grown up in Nyak in the ’70s.
Guava paste has a sour hook, just as cheddar often has a sour hook. That’s why the pairing makes star babies in your eyes. Sour and sour, plus sweet and sweet. It’s crazy crack. To make sure I wasn’t kidding myself, I dug around in my fridge for a tub of membrillo paste (made from quince) that I often serve with Manchego, a traditional Spanish pairing. Wendy and I tried them side by side. The quince paste was treacly; the guava was a happy hoolah-hoop of sweet and sour together.
Here’s what I recommend: next time you pick up a hunk of medium-sharp to sharp cheddar, drop in on a bodega and pick up a tub of guava paste. You don’t need to buy Governor’s Cheddar, which is balanced and creamy-crumbly with a pleasing sharp hook, but it’s definitely a perfect match. My friend Wendy says any medium-sharp Cheddar will do. I think it’s a genius way to serve a ubiquitous cheese, especially when you’re tired of the usual pairings, like cheddar and apples or cheddar and grapes.
A note on Governor’s Cheddar: Perhaps you remember my love affair with Lille Coulommiers last March? Well, this cheddar comes from the same maker, and it’s been shnurring up awards (shnurr is a “Wendy” word). Last year, it won the big fat cheddar award from the American Cheese Society (ACS), which is a triumph since there are some damn good cheddars made in Vermont, by Cabot and Grafton, to name just two.
I wanted to be blown away by this guy, but it was not the power ball I had hoped. Forgive me, I probably got carried away by the guava paste. Also, Governor C. arrived on my stoop a little sweaty, so it may have lost some life en route. Congrats to the folks at Vermont Farmstead for their raging successes.
If you live in New York City or you’re heading to New York City, you should have three things on your mind: Torus, Hudson Flower, and baked buffalo ricotta. They’re on the menu at Murray’s Cheese Bar, the new sit-down arm of the casual but decadent Murray’s Cheese Shop in Greenwich Village.
I made a recent pilgrimage to pursue my wrinkly rinds obsession; Allison Hooper of Vermont Butter and Cheese Co. came down to Murray’s from Burlington with her cheese dream team, and Rob Kaufelt was there to greet us all with hot Raclette and cocktails. What a mensch.
I stuck around after the log-rolling (as in goat cheese log) demo and frittered away the evening over a glass of Port and nibbles from the menu. The Cheese Bar rolls out fondue and small plates, all very lovely, but the real stars are the cheese boards, which are lovingly currated to showcase the best of Murray’s Caves.
Take a look at “The Arts.” It features VBC Torus — which is essentially a small goat donut from Vermont Butter & Cheese Co. that the cave master ages in house. He was there to demo these, and they were a revelation in affinage. I sampled a Torus aged in the blue cheese cave at Murray’s and another aged in the washed-rind cave.
Same cheese, different caves = totally different flavors. The Torus aged amid washed rinds — stinky cheeses, essentially — had a veil-thin crust that shattered like the sugary surface on a creme brulee. Ask for the washed-rind Torus. Beg for the washed-rind Torus. Your server will know you are very special.
Then there’s Hudson Flower. It’s also a special Murray’s creation, made by taking an unbelievable sheep’s milk cheese from Old Chatham (makers of Nancy’s Camembert) and rolling it in hops flowers and herbs. It’s a spin-off on a Corsican bunting called Fleur de Maquis.
Not springy enough for you?
Well, end on a sweet note then, and ask for a cake wedge of baked buffalo ricotta, doused in Earl Grey syrup, studded with berries and topped with creme fraiche.
It’s better than poundcake — dense, damp, and lemony. Yes, it really is made from the milk of water buffalo, which accounts for its fatty lushness.
If these three little sensations don’t make you contemplate flowers and fertility in surprising ways, nothing will. If you want to make yourself truly sick with pleasure, pop into the Morgan Library before you hit the cheese board and look at the Proust exhibit on display. Who really wants a madeleine, though, when you’ve got cheeses like these?
In late March, I went to an unusual tea party. The hostess served grassy tea with — no, not scones or cake — cheese. Two beautiful goat cheeses, alongside a quartet of glorious green teas. The event was billed as a green tea class, taught by my friend Alexis of Teaspoons and Petals, but it felt more like a goat-cheese-and-green-tea deb ball. Alexis debuted some truly amazing pairings, and I am still seeing chartreuse.
Alexis feels about tea the way I feel about cheese: she sees stars when she tastes something dreamy. As we were munching raw leaves of Hojicha to understand its roasty notes, she said, “I love hojicha with any cheese because the pairing mimics a latte.” Of course!
Here was the tea menu:
Shizuoka Sencha: This light, fresh whole leaf tea from southern Japan smelled like freshly steamed asparagus. On the palate, it was grassy, very subtle. The color reminded me of Kermit the Frog. Alexis paired it with a mushroomy wedge of Nocetta di Capra, a bloomy beauty with a trace of vanilla. Eaten together, Sencha and Nocetta made Shangri La.
Genmaicha: Toasted brown rice adds a warm dimension to this late-harvest Sencha that looks like twigs and snowfall (photo below). Its nutty profile didn’t work quite as well with Nocetta, but I can imagine pairing it with a nutty-sweet aged goat cheese. Perhaps Evalon or Pantaleo? The buttery notes would be complimentary, just like the rosemary shortbread Alexis served with this course.
Hojicha: Roasted over charcoal, this wildling tasted like the woods at dusk. A bite of raw tea leaf tasted buckwheaty. Alexis paired this with an Andalucian goat cheese called Montealva, which tasted earthy and nutty. I pictured acorns. The tea really brought out the sweetness of this tea.
Matcha: Vibrant green matcha is used in Japanese tea ceremonies — it tastes like fresh grass with a slightly bitter finish when you whisk it into warm water. Not everyone likes this bitter flourish, so Alexis — brilliant creature — combined it with honey, fresh orange juice, and olive oil for a dressing that she poured over a goat-cheese salad. Wasn’t I having a love affair with that? I was. Oh, and how. Look at it: like leaves and snow.
I took home samples of all these teas, and I’ve been trying them with various goat cheeses that roll through the house. Especially lovely for breakfast: a cup of Sencha or Matcha with fresh goat cheese on toast. Try a local chevre or, go wild with a wrinkly, sexy goat cheese like one of Allison Hooper’s dream bombs from Vermont. I’ve been obsessed with them lately.
Look at them — each one could pass for a mochi ball! Perfect for green tea in the afternoon.
Alexis Siemons hosted her green tea class at CultureWorks, a beautiful new co-working space in downtown Philadelphia. She teaches classes around the city. Follow her blog or stalk her on Twitter (@teaandpetals).
This spring, I’ve had a love affair with brainy goat cheeses. They appear this time of year – wrinkly, rumpled, as if they’ve just rolled out of bed – which may explain why I adore them for breakfast. Put on a pot of tea, grab the honey, pop in some toast, and prepare to be awakened with a rise-and-shiny little cheese.
Clochette is my current darling. Why set an alarm when you can wake to a bell-shaped French goat cheese? I swear, I fall asleep tipsy from joy at the very thought. To continue reading, please visit the Di Bruno Blog.
Disclosure: This teaser promotes a bimonthly post I write for Di Bruno Bros., one of my favorite cheese haunts in Philadelphia. I am paid for this as a freelancer, which is how I support my dairy obsession.